Irish dancing after Festival opening day success

The Irish duo of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh dominated the opening day of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival as the pair finished with a 27–1 treble.

Walsh opened his account in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with a tenacious riding display on Champagne Fever (pictured right) to beat the Nicky Henderson-trained favourite My Tent Or Yours by half a length.

The 33-year-old then added to his tally, when defying most of the statistics to regain the Champion Hurdle title on-board Hurricane Fly (right).

The son of Montjeu looked to be in trouble down the back of the course, when Walsh started to push the nine-year-old along.

However, Hurricane Fly responded with a gallant effort to see off the challenges of the eventual second-placed horse Rock On Ruby and Countrywide Flame, who finished third.

Walsh then completed the hat-trick, and helped his mount to equal Golden Miller’s 'most-winning Festival record by a horse' in the process, when guiding the exquisite Quevega (right) to victory in the OBLG Mares’ Hurdle for the fifth successive year.

In similar style to Hurricane Fly’s victory, the Irish jockey started to drive out the three-time Grade 1 winner early, with the nine-year-old responding late on to get up to the line ahead of Sirene D'Ainay with strides to spare.

Day one’s results mean that Walsh tops the winning jockeys’ table with three successes.

The battle for the trainers’ title is currently led by Mullins, also with three, but the County Carlow-based handler is being closely pursued by Nicky Henderson, who recorded a double on the card.

At 8–15, Simonsig (right) was a well-backed favourite for the Arkle Novices’ Chase, although he gave his backers a few frights throughout the race – thanks to inaccurate jumping.

The seven-year-old was keen before and during the event, and did not settle in the early stages for jockey Barry Geraghty.

But, Simonsig continued regardless and rallied home to score by two and a quarter lengths, seeing off Baily Green, who produced a career-best performance. Overturn was a distant fourth after clouting the fifth from last fence. It was a mistake from which he never recovered.

Henderson’s other winner came through an unlikely source in the Rewards4racing Novices’ Handicap Chase with Rajdhani Express.

Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who celebrated the birth of his first child this week, steered the son of Presenting to victory at a price of 16–1.

With the full-time dentist's best ride coming up on Long Run in Friday’s Gold Cup, this success was a timely booster for his own form.

Elsewhere on the day, Colin Tizzard had his first Cheltenham Festival winner since Cue Card in the 2010 Champion Bumper, when Golden Chieftain won the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase with up-and-coming jockey Brendan Powell on his back.

The 3lb claimer rode like a true professional with a superbly executed drive to win by 10 lengths.

The Cross Country race was abandoned for the day due to track conditions and will now be run on Thursday.

Report and photos by James Yellen. M: 07889 085535. E:


James Yellen is a 22-year-old freelance racing journalist from Newbury, Berkshire.

He is currently in his third year at university studying for a degree in Sports Journalism and will be graduating in July this year.

James has previously written copy for the Racing Post and Press Association, as well as writing numerous articles for Eclipse Magazine.

He tips Champion Court in the Ryanair Chase at 10–1 as his nap bet for the Cheltenham Festival. Follow him on Twitter @JamesYellen. 

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